Our History

St. Paul’s is the third oldest Episcopal Church in the diocese of Northern Indiana, incorporated on St. James Day, July 25, 1839, shortly after St. Paul’s in Mishawaka, 1837, and Trinity in Michigan City, 1838. However, the history of Episcopalians in La Porte can be traced back at least as far as 1835. In August of 1837 the first bishop of Indiana, the Rt. Rev. Jackson Kemper, made his first visit to La Porte.  In his diary he records the baptism of “Dr. Rose’s sick child at home on August 15, 1837, prior to the evening service in the Court House.” The first recorded baptism was that of two-year-old Thomas Lafayette Johnson on November 24, 1838. The first rector was Rev. Solon Manney, who served the parish for ten years. During that time he began a parochial school where “common and high English, Latin, and Greek were taught.” He also was head of La Porte University, from which the Mayo brothers graduated before moving to Rochester, Minnesota, and founding the Mayo Clinic. After leaving La Porte, Rev. Manney founded what is now Seabury Western Seminary. Unverified, but interesting, an Englishman, the Rev. James Boxer, rector from 1879-81, was rumored to be a ghostwriter for Charles Dickens. The two priests who served St. Paul’s the longest are the Rev. George Childs from 1927-49 and the Rev. B. Linford Eyrick from 1956-92.  By 2015 the church has been served by 34 priests, presently by the Rev. Paul A. Nesta.

Early in the 1840’s the southeast corner of Indiana and Maple Avenue was purchased for a church site. However, later the property was exchanged for the present location and “fifty dollars, half in cash and the balance in hewn timbers suitable for the church frame.” The first church building was constructed in 1846 and consecrated by Bishop Kemper on March 2, 1848. Before this, a member of the congregation said her father “had hauled the benches to and from the places of worship.” The present Indiana limestone building, an example of English Gothic architecture, was built in 1897 and consecrated in 1898.  It was called that year by the newspaper, “the most imposing church building in La Porte if not in northern Indiana.” More recently, in 2009, an anonymous gift of $60,000 by a parishioner made it possible to renovate the exterior of the building.

In 1954 a $1,000 gift started a fund for a new Parish House, which was completed in 1957. In 1959 a new heating system was installed. The present building was built for $92,000 with only $20,000 remaining to be paid five years later.

In 1963 the church sanctuary and nave were remodeled, including new altar, new pews, and new floor. On Tuesday, January 15, 1963, the new altar was consecrated and blessed by Bishop Mallett. The top of the altar is a piece of golden marble mined in the Holy Land; the fifteen foot crucifix is of white oak and carved limba wood; the tabernacle is bronze and oak, flanked by eight bronze candlesticks. The original sanctuary light has since been replaced. New faceted glass windows were dedicated on May 3, 1963, three of which were given in memory of the Rev. George J. Childs, former rector.  The windows depict the four evangelists, St. Paul, the Blessed Virgin Mary, the sacraments, and the corporal works of mercy.